CNN Asks If Catholic Church Is Waging 'War on Women'

CNN is friendly to Christianity -- as long as the priests, ministers and religious play into the network's liberal agenda. If Christian guests stand up for traditional marriage, however, they can expect a much colder welcome if they even make it on air.

So it was no surprise that CNN has been promoting a dissenting nun's struggle with the Vatican, and making clear that it is siding with wayward American nuns after the Catholic Church has announced a reform of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR). Anchor Christine Romans tossed softball after softball to liberal Sister Maureen Fiedler on Tuesday's Starting Point, and mocked the Vatican's criticism of the LCWR.

"Let me ask you, women can't be priests. Women – if you follow church teaching, can't use contraception," Romans stated before noting the irony of the prominence of statues of Mary in Catholic churches.  "[W]omen in the church when you look at some of the teachings, is there a war on woman within your church?" she asked Fiedler.

The CNN anchor displayed her obvious ignorance of Catholicism with the question, and dragged the Vatican's announced reform of the LCWR into the debate. "You add on top of that what's happening with nuns in the U.S., it's a good question," she said of the supposed "war on women."

Of course, that only obliged Sister Fiedler to give her liberal spin on church teaching. Fiedler is a public radio host of the show "Interfaith Voices," and has publicly dissented from church teaching on abortion, female ordination, and condom use.

Fiedler has also made clear where her political sympathies lie by ripping Wisconsin bishops for not siding with the unions against Governor Scott Walker. In the past, she has cheered the Occupy protests, railed against the Ryan budget, and clamored for single-payer healthcare, among other liberal causes.

CNN was only too happy to give her a warm welcome. Romans began the interview with a sarcastic rip against the Vatican's criticism of "radical feminism" within the LCWR. "So, I'm just curious, are you a feminist or radical feminist? And why exactly is this such a big bone of contention with Rome?" she asked Fiedler before laughing.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 12 on Starting Point at 7:15 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CHRISTINE ROMANS: Welcome back to Starting Point. Catholic nuns are going straight to the top today to address these claims that they have strayed from church doctrine. Members from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet with Vatican officials. A report from a church watchdog accuses the group, which represents about 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States, of, quote, "radical feminism," and also says they are too silent on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But the nuns say officials are focusing too much on what they don't do instead of the good they do perform. Sister Maureen Fiedler is host of the public radio program "Interfaith Voices." Welcome to the program this morning.

SISTER MAUREEN FIEDLER, host, "Interfaith Voices": Thank you, Christine, it's good to be here.

ROMANS: So, I'm just curious, are you a feminist or radical feminist? And why exactly is this such a big bone of contention with Rome?

FIEDLER: Well, radical feminist is in the eye of the beholder, I think. I certainly am a feminist, and proudly so. And feminism, properly defined, means a belief in the fundamental equality of women and men. And even the documents of the Second Vatican Council affirm this when they say every type of discrimination based on sex is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent. And furthermore that was the example of Jesus in the gospels. So I'm not quite sure what they mean when they say "radical feminism."

ROMANS: Tell me a little bit about what you're hoping to achieve and what your group is hoping to achieve when you talk to the Vatican and you move forward here. Because clearly there is a very big difference of opinion between the nuns in the U.S., your group, and Rome.

FIEDLER: Well, that's true. I want to hasten to add, I'm not a member of the leadership conference. And those are the women, the president and executive director who are meeting with various officials at the Vatican today. However, every nun in the United States is attuned to what's going on there. And I think they are concerned that the assessment they received, which was sprung on them unexpectedly, once they've had a chance now to examine what's in it, they believe there are unsubstantiated accusations. There was no transparency in the process by which it was developed. And let me say, we nuns are used to now, since the Second Vatican Council, very open and collaborative processes in our communities. And furthermore, they believe, as I think many people do, that it has caused grave scandal in the American church. Witness the great support that we have received from the laity across the country.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, women can't be priests. Women – if you follow church teaching, can't use contraception. Women -- I mean I guess in the Catholic church, you walk in and Mary is in full view and is – pray to Mary, but women in the church when you look at some of the teachings, is there a war on woman within your church? You add on top of that what's happening with nuns in the U.S., it's a good question.

FIEDLER: Well, It's a fundamental question that a lot of people ask. It's certainly true that at the institutional level women are not treated as equals in the church, and they need to be. Even to follow the very teachings which I just quoted, which the bishops of the world spoke back in the early 1960s. And I think that's a deep concern for many of us.

You know, another concern is that these teachings and practices that you've cited can change. It's a myth to think that the teachings of the church never change. And when people push for changes, or look at things with new theological insights, that's how the evolution of teaching and the development of teaching takes place in the church.

ROMANS: Sister, is Rome evolving, or are sisters evolving faster than Rome is, is that what the issue here is?

FIEDLER: I dare say that sisters have been evolving considerably faster than Rome, yes.

ROMANS: And what about the American Catholic Church compared with Rome? Is this another sign of an American Catholic Church that is – much, is evolving faster than Rome too?

FIEDLER: I think that's probably true, yes. Unfortunately, I think that the officials at the Vatican seem entrenched in what I would call a pre-Vatican II model of church, which is really dictatorial, non-collaborative and so forth. And I think the American church by and large has embraced the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which puts emphasis, which we do as nuns, on social justice, on the needs of the poor, on relieving the plight of the opressed or helping victims of violence around the world. Those are the kinds of concerns we bring to this church.

And I've run into laity, quite frankly, and this makes me sad, who have said to me after they heard about this Vatican action against nuns, they said, you know, sister, how can I go to church next Sunday? This really makes me sad. And it makes me sad too to hear them say that.

ROMANS: Sister Maureen Fiedler, it's so nice to have you on the program this morning, we'll talk to you again very soon, host of the public radio program "Interfaith Voices." Thank you, have a nice day.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014